The dark silhouette of a woman stood in the doorway, gestured for me to come forward, and whispered… “Welcome to the Hotel California.”
“Haha,” I said. “Actually, I’m here for the writers conference.”
She consulted her iPad. “OK. Did you want the pretentious poets seminar, the literary fiction curation, the bodice ripper mixer, or the sci-fi gala?”
I frowned. “None of those. I registered for the murder mystery treasure hunt. My name is Tiffany Twist.”
She typed something. “You’re all set.”
I waited, but she didn’t give me any more info. “Um. Thanks. But which room is it in?”
“That’s part of the mystery,” she said. “Now, if you could please move along. There are other guests waiting to check in.”
I glanced back and saw a large woman in a purple muumuu holding an iced pink champagne cupcake in one hand and a cat carrier in the other. “Hello, sweets,” she said. “I’m Amaryllis Rose, romance novelist.”
“I never would have guessed,” I murmured as I walked past the hostess and into the grand foyer. It was completely empty, but a faint light gleamed at the end of the hall to my left, so I went that way.
I peeked into a room where it smelled like colitas and a bearded young man in ripped jeans screamed, “Fuck the world! My pain is curled. Like a sleeping serpent. Baking in radioactive starlight. My love ignites.”
Ugh. Poets. I continued on until I found some fun people dressed up like furry monsters from outer space dancing under a mirrored ceiling. One of them handed me a key. “Go to the courtyard,” he hissed. “Hurry!”
“Will do,” I said. “Nice costume!”
“What costume?” he replied.
I ran down a maze of corridors until I came to a locked door. The key fit the lock and I stepped out into a stone courtyard where a Mercedes was parked crookedly. The driver’s side door hung open, so I glanced inside.
“Michael! Darling!” I gasped in horror at the dead body with a steely knife stuck in his chest. Then I looked in the trunk where a second body lay sprawled with multiple stab wounds in his back. “Mike! My darling!”
A bewigged judge in black robes emerged from the shadows. “They’re dead, Tiffany, and we know you killed them. You weren’t supposed to take our advice literally. Your punishment is to rewrite your novel for all eternity, and each time you reach the end of a chapter, Word will reboot without saving anything.”
And that’s how I became a prisoner of my own device.
©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.
Written for Fandango’s Story Starter 53.